The PhotoBook

January 31, 2009

Michael Lundgren – Transfigurations

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:56 pm


Photographs copyright of Michael Lundgren, courtesy Radius Books

Michael Lundgren’s natural landscape photographs in his book Transfigurations published in 2008 by Radius Books is not what you might expect of this genre of photography. It is a very cerebral set of images, very unlike Ansel Adams and his landscape photographs that encompass those dynamic tonal ranges, but more like if Wynn Bullock had a son name Lee Friedlander. A philosophic direct look at the landscape.

The photographs are more in line with the New Topology, of directly recording what is seen, but seen in the desert and not within the urban landscape. His theme is not just change, but metamorphosis, and he attempts to capture that intense radiance and wide range of illuminatance of the deserts of the Southwest United States.

He captures subtle and brief changes in the landscape as well as that changes that take long durations to manifest themselves. In the desert, the essence of how we mark time becomes a gray fog, blurred by memory. His photographs provide the evidence of change with broad and varied strokes. Such as the photographic pairing within the book of the changing movements of earthly, solid rocks with the celestial heavenly bodies.

He plays with scale and tonality, and you realize that that what you are looking at is not what exactly you thought it to be. And so you find yourself reexamining each photograph to re-verify if it is what you thought it to be? You begin to have doubts and you find you need to look closer and make a more critical examination of the “facts” placed before you. A white facing page morphs into a high key desert river bottom, so your return to the previous white facing pages and reexamine them again. A black page ekes out the subtle details of a desert vista, an experience of staying the night in the desert.

The photographs are printed with full edge bleeds which provides the feeling of vastness, that the images are running off the edges, much like the endless vistas of the desert. For me in this instance, the full bleed images are not comfortable and leaves me uneasy, but I do feel that is consistent with the book’s design intent.

The pairing of images within the book provide an interesting juxtapositon and create potentially greater thematic images about change.  Editing which is possible in a book, but difficult to archive in an exhibition or the examination of single, loose prints.

The pair of photographs of the bright illumination of a full moon and the facing photograph of a landscape with deep shadows that are oriented such that the source of illumination seems to emanate from the facting page. The repetition patterns of the moving and changing rock position and the planet as it moves across the reflected surface of a pond.

The book is available in a trade edition, a tad bit more for the signed version or in a limited edition with a 16 x 20″ silver gelatin photograph, your choice from any within the book. The ability to choose which print to be included with the limited edition is a nice touch.
















Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 26, 2009

Henry Horenstein – Anaimalia

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:48 pm


Photographs copyright of Henry Horenstein, courtesy Pond Press

 Henry Horenstein recently published book, Animalia, by Pond Press  in 2008 might also be viewed as a “best of photographs”  from three of his previously published books, “Creatures”, “Canine” and “Aquatics”.

These delicate and interesting photographs are brought together in a wonderfully duo-tone printed book, 90 pages, a cloth hardcover with a tipped in photograph. The photographs are classically displayed in the book design by Kiki Bauer. The books vertical size of 10 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ allows for plenty of breathing room around each photograph, with the few two page spreads loosing very little of the details in the gutter.

Editing of the photographs, which order and sequence, as well as image pairing or leaving a single image on a spread, is always intriguing to me. As a monograph, you could say that almost any sequencing might do, as there is no real beginning or end. Yet with this book, there is a nice flow to the photographs, and it seems effortless to keep turning the pages.

The collective series of photographs is a little ecliptic, with a combination of tight abstractions, close up details, and medium range environmental studies. Horenstein admits that creating this series in black & white, then adding in the warm sepia toning, was to further abstract this series and create additional seperation from the usual colorful reality of many animal photographs. It is a difficult genre to work in, as it is daunting to photograph a subject that can quickly slip into a cliche.

This series is not meant to be very discriptive, e.g. portoraits of animals in their habitats. They do provide a unique viewpoint and an attempt to provide something you might not have noticed before. A close up of the backend of a Rhino is probably not a viewpoint that you would seek out or get very often. Thus you might not be aware of the texture of the Rhino’s skin or how concealed the tail can become. Thus you might ask yourself the Darwin question, why did the animals tail evolve that particular way?

Or the study of the birds, when you able to veiw close up, the way the feathers are formed and lay, become beautiful abstraction patterns.

Granted, I have a real soft spot for the photographs of translucent Sea Nettles, which Horenstein photographs beautifully. Watching Nettles is much like watching a delicate contemporary ballet, that what ever interaction you see, is a delight. And Horenstein has seemed to capture that essence for me.  In fact there is a wonderful quality to almost every photograph in the book.













Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 23, 2009

Bertrand Fleuret – Landmassess and Railways

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 10:35 pm


I had the opportunity to acquire an advance copy of Bertrand Fleuret’s soon to be published photographic book, Landmassess and Railways at photo la earlier this month. This was a limited edition (100 each) of a imprint of the J&L 2009 Edition, which has a unique hardcover binding.

I find that this book very fascinating on many levels.  It is very much out of the norm for what we come to expect within the US for a published photographic book. Perhaps to better call it a photographic story book, sans text. I mean that there literally is almost any text whatsoever. I think that the publisher rescinded and will include a small insert to provide some context for the buyer;

It seems to be the record of a trip. You left the countryside and entered a city. Lost in the layers of construction and decay, you eventually found yourself in an overgrown garden. You remember Sebastian’s jungle, the chaos of creation. You remember Solaris and the island in Le Voyeur. It’s all very clear, like photographs slipped under your door in a manila envelope. Were you there? What happened? As William Gedney wrote in his notebook, “All facts lead eventually to mysteries.”

As to Fleuret’s story, it is very much mysterious and abiguous. There are clues that he provides, but Fleuret very much wants you to construct your own story. Whether this is a fictional story, a travel log or something in between, you have to decide. Which also means, do I review this as photographic novel or a photographic monograph?

As a story, once you get your initial orientation, I found it relatively easy and delightful to move through the first two chapters. As such, my own story that I was constructing was proceeding enjoyably well. It was providing some inspirational thoughts of my own. 

Towards the end of the second chapter, the discord started to build. I had trouble with the dissident, odd images and flow to be able to maintain a coherent line internal dialog. Which may not have been so bad, but the ending was seemingly flat. As a story, there did not seem to be as clearly defined ending to this story of a trip, as there had been in creating the introduction and setting the stage for the ensuing story.

While reading this book, I was also struck by the similarities between the pace and flow of the book’s images and how they reminded me of some recent movie trailers on TV. There is a backgound dialog about the movie, but the image are a series of very brief, not at all sequential, but random stills from the movie, that are trying to create  an interest by their juxtaposition. I believe that there is a similarity in the photographic editing and the ensuing effect that Fleuret is attempting to create.

A brief glimpse here, a memory recalled, a long mindless gaze and quickly distracted by another vision by something over there. Life as a series of endless visual vignettes and memories.

Perhaps that is where the mystery increases and the ambiguity mounts and grows. Maybe it is my lack of imagination with constructing an interesting story with the remaining clues that are provided? In some ways, this is similar to a novel that you pick up and as you get into it, you find that you lose interest. For some reason, my bookmark at the first half never seems to progress to it’s conclusion. And when you talk with some else, they just can’t put it down until the get to the end, and they are fascinated with all of the parts.

The book publishing, in addition to its binding, is also printed in a way that reminds you of a written novel, not a photographic series. Many of the photographs are high contrast images, but printed in a low contrast, flat and almost less than newsprint quality. There are also paintings and other photographs that have been rephotographed, the half tone dot matrix almost concealing the images, again, contribution to the ambguity.

Landmassess and Railways is slated for availability by J&L this Spring, 2009, with 208 pages, duotone printed, 7″ x 9 3/4″ hardcover, with the first edition of 1,000 copies.



Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Update: I did a major mistake and provided the wrong name to Bertrand’s book, my since apologies.

January 20, 2009

Alexey Titarenko – Photographs

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:26 pm


Photographs copyright of Alexey Titarenko, courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery

One of the benefits of providing book reviews at the beginning of year, is that there are few new publication releases, thus a big leeway to discuss previously published books. Such as the opportunity to review Alexey Titarenko’s Photographs, published in 2003 by Nailya Alexander Gallery, from which this wonderful book is still available.

This is a delightfully designed and printed 9 1/2 x 9 1/2″ softbound book with stiff covers, it has 106 pages, with 56 black and white photographs, and a number of which with a slight sepia toning. The essay that accompanies the book, which continues through and provides us with a dialog about this body of work, is by Gabriel Bauret, with the text in both English and French. This running discussion through the book  is in stark contrast with current photographic books, which are almost completely devoid of any constructional text.

The book draws from four photographic series that Titarenko created while living in St Petersburg, his place of birth. He has created a story about  St Petersburg as it progresses from Leningrad, a part of the USSR, to the present and possibily its future. And to that extent, it is also about the people and society of Russia.

We do not clearly see the people who make up this society, as Titarenko used long exposures and camera movement, to capture a glimpse of their essense and existence. They are like ghosts moving through the pages of history.  His intent is to try to bring an element of time into the images and create an emotional connection to the cultural changes that occurred.

In fact, Titarenko explicitly states that his work is very metaphoric and highly dependent upon his attempts to introduce the element of time into a two dimensional image. He wants to try to elicit an emotional reaction in the reader that might correlate with his own personal feelings.

The book starts with dark images that create a foreboding and depressive condition, similar to the dire living conditions of those trying to survive in Leningrad at the time. Then the political changes occur, which shapes the emotional stability of the city, now St Petersburg.  First the emergence of new hope, then followed by sad disappointment, but eventually new hope again and finally a future with promise.

He has provided a unique vision about how it felt to live through those days, an overall feeling of what the conditions were like. His photographs are breathtakingly beautiful, and they touch my inner soul. I had seen a fair number of Ttiarenko’s photographs before reading this book, and there was that immediate recall and recollection of those first feelings.

The dark despair I felt while looking at his photograph of the sea of bodies slowly making their way up the stairs, touching the railing, a slow moving mass, going somewhere. Symbolic of a painfull march, slowly moving forward. Titarenko reinforced that mood with a predominate use of middle grays, with no white highlights to provide relief. A gray day, a gray period in time, one that you would not willingly want to return to.

As the book progresses, Titarenko brings in a new element, a subtle area of warm sepia tonality, to metaphorically signify Hope. Concurrently he slowly introduces a longer tonal range to his photographs, to reduce the predominate heavy, middle gray of his earlier photographs. Increasing the image contrast in conjunction with the delicately applied sepia toning, does provide an uplifting feeling, especially after the series of the darkly foreboding earlier photographs.

He then ends the book with large groups of people enjoying the beach, having the opportunity to enjoy life. Metaphorically, as they bask in the sun in their bathing suits, they seem to have far fewer burdens, as their loads are now much “lighter”. Like wise the prints have a full tonal range, implying a normalcy, with both the white highlights and some true blacks. It creates a place you would like to spend some time and come back to enjoy again.

Titarenko’s book also incorporates colors of red, black, pale blue into both the text pages and breaks, to further emphaise his story and intent. The additional color creates a wonderful elment to the book. The occasional full bleeds do not detract from the content of the images and nothing is lost in the gutters. Nicely designed and printed.











Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 18, 2009

Lauren Burke – Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:34 pm


Photographs copyright of Lauren Victoria Burke

Another recent Print on Demand (POD) that has been published at the end of 2008 immediately after the election of Barack Obama is the Lauren Burke title, Birth of a Statesman – Barack Obama. Okay, the title is even much longer, but check out the link for its entirety. Where as TheGuardian’s A Message For Obama was a global collaboration of everyday folks, Burke’s book is the result of a very professional Washington DC freelance photo/journalist. Where “Message” could be viewed as objective, “Statesman” is probably more subjective.

Like TheGuarian book, Birth of a Statesman is also a hardcover book, but in a larger horizontal 10 x 8 format, 240 pages with 475 color and black & white photographs. This book probably has incorporated every photographic page template known to Blurb, the POD printer, usually with a good design sense to add variety and a visual change of pace through the book.

The book documents Obama in the Senate before his presidential run and election, as well as segments of his Presidential campaign and final election night in Chicago. It is not meant to be an all inclusive about his campaign, as Burke was not an embedded photojournalist for the entire duration of Obama’s campaign. Like many photographers who self-publish a photographic book, she has a professional agenda for this book and her Washington DC photo agency, as a means to provide wider coverage for the photographs she has available. And I also suspect that she is an Obama Presidential supporter, but that is just my suspicion, in as she may have had an McCain book in the wings as well.

To her credit as a skilled journalist, as well as a skilled photographer, she weaves in a story, with the photographs not just inclusive of Obama, but showing the ebb and flow of his days in congress and his supporters during the campaign. And this adds to the weakness of the book.  Her editing was not tight to provide the essence of who Obama might be, but instead broad and allowed much weaker photographs to be included. Such as the photograph of Obama and his interns after the fact that they were just photographed together. Huh? Perhaps the editing was an effort to illustrate how broad her available inventory is, much like a catalog of walking shoes and dry goods.

I can see the great potential of this book, such as the photographs of the supports as they expectantly wait for “Their” candidate. Burke has captured that certain intentsity you find in people who have found something that they can really believe in, that look in their faces and especially their eyes, their body postures and the resultant sense of anticipation. She senses and sees it and then elegantly captures it.

As well as documenting the social environment that also tells Obama’s story, opportunities she finds in the urban landscape. And she appears sensitive to the potential humor that lurks there too.

But I am too disappointed in the great amount of chafe that has been included with the wheat, that the distractions take away too much from the great images and the wonderful story that is hiding in this book.















Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

TheGuardian – A Message For Obama

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:33 pm


All photographs copyright of the photographers, courtesy of TheGuardian

I had essentailly stated a couple of days ago here, that with the advent of the Print on Demand (POD) book, we can have a book in print almost 10 days after an event has occurred. With the recent election of Barrack Obama as President of the United States, I am going to review a couple of these “hot off the press” books about his election.

The first review is the hardcover 7″ x 7″ book published by Guardian News &  Media in late 2008, titled A Message For Obama. This 120 page book was developed by the Guardian staff, as a collabortive with the visitors who posted messages about their thoughts and feelings to either their site or a Flickr site. They state that they were able to commission, complie, edit and print their book all within three weeks. Not bad, not internet or a newspaper speed, but it is amazing to have a published hardcover book available in that short amount of time, eh?

One of the interesting aspects of this small book is that the photographs were contributed from folks located through out the world and that it was edited by a staff in the U.K.  Such that it might be considered to be a more unbaised and objective assessment of the US policts and the election of Obama.

Regarding the photographs, probably the vast majority were non-professional photographers, but made by individuals who passionately hoped to pass a personal message to Obama. There is that Flickr rawness to them, direct and unpolished, sometimes literally wearing their message on their sleeve, forehead or on the back of their hands. The lighting is sometimes poor, compositions weak, images very grainey and overall bad technical photographs. But the photographs carry the big emotional impact, ranging from the totally dedicated, to the non-believers and skeptics.

The book design and layout reflects the edgness and rawness of the photographs within, but respectfully not loosing anyone or anything in the gutters, and it is not apparent that any content is slipping off the full bleeds. The book is not monantonus to read and has a nice pace, using a variety of the layout templates to provide variety. Will it be on someone’s best of 2009, very doubtful (well maybe the folks at TheGuardian), but perhaps this may be a book that may have a lot of intest in 10, 20 or 30 years, after Flickr is long gone and folks who are interested in what did happen with this election and how did the global community react.

It is also very nice that the proceeds from the sale of this book are going to TheGuardian’s long term aid project for Katine, more info here.









Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 16, 2009

Bruce Davidson – Central Park in Platinum

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:44 pm


Verso Limited Editions has recently published their latest title, Bruce Davidson: Central Park in Platinum, which I had an opportunity to review at photo la last week. This book is really an object de arte, considering the exquisit use materials for its construction.

But first, I want to discuss the photographs of Bruce Davidson in this book, which are from his Central Park series. For background, this was a initially a commissioned project by National Geographics in 1991, which was subsequently cancelled four months into the assignment. Over the following four years, Davidson continued to work on this now self-assigned series.

The selection of the fourteen photographs that are encased in this book are an interesting selection, from those that perhaps could be easily associated with Davidson to many which are not.

Perhaps in an attempt to try to interpret Central Park in a unique manner, many of his photographs are made with an extremewide angle lens. To photograph an iconic location is daunting. He is most successful in what Davidson seems to do best, to capture the essence of the people who use the Park, especially with the photograph of  the women feeding the pigeons (Women at the Pond). A few give you pause to wonder why they are even included in this series, as you would expect some of his best work to be included in this small selection.

I am not sure that I have any better feeling or understanding of Central Park for looking at and studying these photographs. Perhaps that was not the intent. A couple of the landscape images are a delight to look at, with the Poets Walk of the snow falling in the park on the walk way, the most intriguing use of the atmospheric conditions, but these are not the photographs that I would usually associate with Davidson from his earlier work.

And perhaps that may be the point, that this is a small body of work that Davidson has allowed himself to stray from his normal style to follow different and perhaps more personal muse. To try to visual explore a thematic subject and to take some chances.

As to the book itself, the list of fine materials of construction seems to go on and on, such that the book is as much about the book itself as it is about an artist work. I was not prepared with a set of white archival gloves to handle the book and its pages directly. Something about feeling the need to handle a book wearing gloves may not bring out the best in me.  Perhaps the need is more apt if you were looking at fine photographic prints, which is what this book aspires to. Considering the price of $12,500 for the book, it is relatively expensive as new books go.

The book is printed in platinum, as are the two free-standing photographs, the text has been handset by the Press & Letterfundry of Michael & Winifred Bixley, letter pressed on 100% cotton Cranes Rag Paper at KatRan Press by Michael Russem. The master bookbinder for the twelve bound images was Mark Tomlinson, working with a design by Skolkin+Chickey and the entire collection is encased in a custom crafted mahongany box, in a limited edition of 50 books. It is very impressive to behold and does leave a big impact in of itself.

 The introduction was written by Charlotte Cotton, curator and departement head of photography at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).












 Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 14, 2009

Barack Obama – photographic books

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:52 pm


One of the interesting aspects of the pending Presidential inaguration of Barack Obama, is the growing number of books about him that are now being published. One segement of these new books are the photographic books, which interesting enough, are becoming very quickly available through the Print on Demand (POD) press. Almost as quick as the web, these books can be available within 10 days of  the photographs being assembled into the POD book templates and uploaded to the publisher.

I became aware of the recent story about Lauren Burke, a freelance political photojournalist who just published her POD photographic book ,“Birth of a Statesman: Barack Obama 2005-2008 – The Senate – The Epic Campaign.”   Burke recently had her book, developed between 2005 and Obama’s Chicago Presidential acceptance speach, signed by Obama.

In a quick subject check about Barack Obama at both Blurb and Lulu, I found 40 photogaphic books at Blurb and another 3 at Lulu. The titles are of course very diverse, including TheGuardian (UK) photographic book developed in conjunction with Flickr, “A Message for Obama”.  

I expect to provide a more indepth and critical review of both TheGuardian “..Message..” and Burke’s “Birth of a Statesman…” photographic books by the start of next week. There seems to be some politictial event in Washington D.C. that these book reviews may be relevent to;- )

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale


January 13, 2009

Photo-eye – Best of 2008

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 12:21 am

I had missed the Photo-eye best of 2008 list, but it was brought to my attention at photo l.a. by Jeffery Ladd, who made one of the lists, (but alas I did not).

So check this out and follow the various matrix of links to the various best of 2008 books lists, a ton of recommended books to consider. Such as:

Markus Schaden, Bookseller & Publisher, Schaden

  1. soul and soul K Suzuki n-licht
  2. Sommerherz Ehling Kehrer
  3. Schles, New History of Photography White Press
  4. Yasuhiko Uchihara Son of a Bit Seigensha 2008
  5. Stephen Shore A Road Trip Journal Phaidon 2008
  6. Stefania Gurdowa Negatives are to be stored Fundacja Imago Mundi 2008
  7. Alec Soth The Last Days of W. A little Brown Mushroom 2008
  8. Rob Hornstra 101 Billionaires .Borotov 2008
  9. Koji Onaka The Dog in France .Sokyu-sha 2008
  10. Tobias Zielony Trona – Armpit of America Zielony / Spector 2008

And another by Darius Himes, Photographer, Publisher, Radius Books

“In no particular order, here are my top favorites! Thanks for the chance to share this list with folks.”
  • Stephen Shore, A Road Trip Journal, Phaidon.
  • Martin Parr, ParrWorld, Aperture.
  • Larry Towell, The World From My Front Porch, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Archive of Modern Conflict.
  • Richard Benson, The Printed Picture, MoMA.
  • Mikhael Subotzky, Beaufort West, Chris Boot.
  • Eugene Richards, The Blue Room, Phaidon.
  • Jules Spinatsch, Highlights International, Kodoji.
  • Ari Marcopolis, The Chance is Higher, Dashwood Books.
  • Obata Yuji, Wintertale, Sokyu-Sha.
  • Various Photographers (both Iranian and European), Iran, A Winter Journey, Fotohof
  • Risaku Suzuki, Yuki/Sakura, Nazraeli Press

3 Bonus Books (If my own books aren’t my favorites, then what am I doing!?)

  • Julie Blackmon, Domestic Vacations, Radius Books.
  • Michael Lundgren, Transfigurations, Radius Books. (coming soon)
  • Lee Friedlander, Lee Friedlander: New Mexico, Radius Books. (coming soon)

And photo-eye then noted that these 10 seemed to be on a lot of the lists;

Stephen Shore; A Road Trip Journal (Phaidon)

Michael Subotzky: Beaufort West (Chris Boot)

Joseph Koudelka; Invasion 68 Prague (Aperture)

Larry Towell; The World From My Front Porch (Chris Boot)

Rob Hornstra; 101 Billionaires (Borotov)

The Books on Books Series (Errata Editions)

David Maisel; Library of Dust (Chronicle)

Dayanita Singh; Sent a Letter (Steidl)

Robert Frank; The Americans (Steidl) Agree!

Stephen Gill; A Series of Disappointments (Nobody)

So, do you think that they missed any or were any in the “what were they thinking” catagory??

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

January 11, 2009

Photo l.a. update

Filed under: Book Publications, Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 6:48 pm

Last Friday I had an opportunity to attend photo l.a., which is a wonderful opportunity to see a broad spectrum of photographs, but also see the most currently published books and sometimes meet the photographers who created them.

Thus, I have a large pile of new books on the nightstand;- )

I did have an opportunity to meet with Jeffery Ladd and briefly review and discuss his recently published books with Errata Editions, who in turn steered me to Bertrand Fleuret and subsequently snag a Schaden sponsored limited edition (#10/100) copy of his J&L published book, Landmasses and Railways. Oh, yes, going towards the top of the pile on the nightstand. FYI, those interested in Jeffery’s Limited Editions of his four new books should be acting fast, or else, no regrets.

Equally exciting was to meet, discuss, and interview Alexey Titarenko, whose book Alexey Titarenko: photographs which although was published in 2002 by the Nailya Alexander Gallery, is a Russian photographer who is not as well known here in the United States. I hope that changes, but his book is also right there at the top of the pile.

My one regret was not having the time to meet Chris Pichler, the owner of Nazraeli Press. Or I should say, that every time I went by the Nazraeli booth, it was really clogged and busy and Chris had a circle of folks that he was talking with. Since I expect to be in Portland this March for my book publishing workshop at the 23 Sandy Gallery, I hope to carve out some time to see him and Alison at their Portland offices.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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